He is well-known for doing any job, no matter the danger or violence involved, so as long as it will make him a good deal of money. Both this trait and his various egregious actions have earned him the nickname "Dirtyhands."
Kaz has pale skin and dark hair trimmed short on the sides. According to Inej, his eyes are the color of bitter coffee or strong tea in sunlight. He has a sharp jawline, narrow face, and a lean, muscular build. On his right arm, he has two tattoos; one of the Dregs' crow and cup on his forearm, and the other on his bicep of a black R for 'Rietveld', his original surname. His voice is described as a "rock salt rasp."
Kaz wears simple, dark suits that are tailored along severe lines to fit him, and a black hat – the clothing of a businessman. He remarked once to Inej that he wore business clothing in order to mock respectable businessmen, by looking like one of them. He also wears black leather gloves almost all of the time which are described as having small slits in the fingers which allow for better card handling.
Kaz has a limp and carries a cane with a crow's head as a handle that he had created by a Fabrikator. The cane itself is a weapon, having been weighted specifically to be used to shatter bones. His limp is due to jumping off a roof of a bank at fourteen, an injury that never fully healed. This leg has been used as a metaphor for Kaz himself, as his memories never healed.
"A liar, a thief, and utterly without conscience. But he'll keep to any deal you strike with him."
- — Inej Ghafa
Kaz can be cold-hearted and ruthless. He will do almost any job if he so wishes, no matter how despicable or bloody it is, thus earning him the nickname 'Dirtyhands'. Kaz is manipulative and conniving and makes sure to always be the person in control of the situation. For this reason, he's quick-witted and always has a trick up his sleeve. He despises skin contact, showing signs of having haphephobia by always wearing gloves on his hands, and being unable to bear skin contact with other people. As he wears gloves no matter what, people believe he does not want people seeing his hands due to them looking unnatural or having disease. He rarely allows his emotions to show or influence his thinking, but when he does, he has difficulty expressing them. Kaz is always calm and collected, never letting people see what he’s really thinking. When he becomes particularly enraged, though, he becomes even more ruthless. An example of this is when he pulled out Oomen’s eyeball in Six of Crows after Oomen gave Inej a nearly fatal knife wound. He also holds a penchant for wrath and revenge; as he has sworn to avenge his deceased brother, 'brick by brick" being a motto of his. He seems to have a soft side only when he is around Inej, and towards the end of Six of Crows, begins to realize that he has genuine feelings for her. He also thinks of Jesper as a brother in a way because of his recklessness. Once, he even accidentally called Jesper Jordie.
Kaz is from a small village near Lij in Kerch. He first came to Ketterdam with his older brother Jordie Rietveld at the age of nine. They had sold their father's farm after he'd died, and decided to use the money to start a new life in the city. However, the siblings were conned out of all their money by Pekka Rollins, who was going by the alias Jakob Hertzoon at the time, and were left penniless. In Crooked Kingdom, Colm Fahey set himself under the fake identity of Johannus Rietveld, Johannus being Jordie's middle name.
He was taken to see the magician who had been performing on the West Stave and saw a boy (Filip) selling wind-up dogs. While Kaz was playing with the dogs, Jordie struck up a conversation with Filip who brought him to Jakob Hertzoon (Pekka). Filip was also part of the con. "Jakob's" fake wife was called Margit and served the two boys food such as hutspot made from sausages. Kaz had a crush on their fake daughter, named Saskia, who gave him her red ribbon, but was also part of the con. "Jakob" had them invest their money in his stocks. A week after he "helped" them with the stocks, they arrived at his house to talk about the business, only to find he was gone with their money. The brothers were eventually left on the streets in dire poverty.
Both Kaz and Jordie caught the Queen's Lady Plague, also known as firepox, when it swept through Ketterdam. Jordie died of the disease, and Kaz fell very ill as well. The siblings were presumed dead and their bodies were collected and brought out by the Reaper's Barge to sea. However, Kaz, barely alive, swam back to Ketterdam using his brother's body as a float. The experience was extremely traumatic for the young Kaz and left him unable to bear contact with another person's skin. Also, it is implied that the illness damaged his throat causing his voice to develop a rasp, which Inej describes as sounding like stone on stone.
After his brother's death, Kaz vowed to make Pekka Rollins pay for conning him out of their money and bringing about Jordie's death. He changed his surname to Brekker to cut off ties to his past and joined up with The Dregs at age twelve. Kaz started out as a simple grunt, but quickly rose up through the ranks in the Dregs to become a lieutenant, feared by many for his precise ruthlessness. It was due to him that the Crow Club, one of the Dregs' main source of income, was reestablished and the formerly scant Fifth Harbour now flourished with business. The Dregs gained power and reputation mostly due to Kaz, and he is viewed by many as the true leader of the Dregs as opposed to Per Haskell.
Kaz begins the story by running an operation on Geels and the Black Tips, revealing a member of the Dregs, Big Bolliger, to be a double agent. After successfully destroying the Black Tips, Kaz, in a state of confusion, is kidnapped by Jan Van Eck, an upstanding Mercher, who makes an offer. The offer suggests that if Kaz and his crew successfully complete an impossible heist, he will receive thirty million kruge: Break into the Ice Court of Fjerda and rescue Bo-Yul-Bayur. Kaz, unable to resist the offer of thirty million kruge, accepts, gathering a team. His crew consists of Inej Ghafa (his Wraith and spy), Nina Zenik (a Heartrender), Jesper Fahey (a sharpshooter and loyal member of the Dregs - also a Fabrikator), Wylan Van Eck (demo and hostage), Matthias Helvar (Fjerdan and former drüskelle), and, of course, himself.
After rescuing Matthias from Hellgate prison, where he was previously held, the crew made their way to the Ice Court. The journey is long and difficult, involving a great deal of planning and a few dangerous situations, yet finally, the crew arrives at the Ice Court. Each member has their own job, and eventually, the group discovers the man, Bo Yul-Bayur, has died. They were intended to kidnap him, because he was the creator of Jurda Parem, but then knowing he had died, the crew took his son, Kuwei Yul-Bo, only to discover that the entire heist was a trick set up by Jan Van Eck, (Wylan's dad) who had set up the quest in the first place, to help expand the Van Eck trading empire by selling, and manufacturing more Jurda Parem.
Kaz manages to anticipate something like this and has swapped Wylan and Kuwei without Van Eck noticing. He then reveals this to Van Eck after Van Eck reveals that he had tricked Kaz. Kaz insists that if Van Eck wants Kuwei, he will need to give up the thirty million kruge. Van Eck, however, noticed the way Kaz looked at Inej and instead kidnapped Inej herself, insisting that Kaz would be able to get his Wraith back if he gave up Kuwei.
Kaz is first seen breaking into Van Eck's lawyer's (Cornelis Smeet) house with Wylan. Kaz devises a plan to get Inej back from Van Eck by using his pregnant wife, Alys, as bait. After successfully trading the two, Kaz explains his plan to rot Van Eck's sugar silos, and gain money from the rise in sugar prices. This plan goes wrong, and the group reconvenes with Jesper's father. Their plight seems hopeless, as the entire city is out looking for them, and even Kaz's gang, the Dregs, have turned on them. Kaz decides that he will stage an auction with Kuwei Yul Bo as the "prize", in the hope of using the money to fund his team's own plans for the future. He also has a scene where he reveals his true feelings for Inej - almost kissing her neck before his panic takes hold. He then reveals that he has paid off her indenture himself, selling every asset he owns to set her free. Kaz breaks into the Dregs' stronghold and stages an impromptu single-handed coup, fighting off at least ten of the members loyal to Per Haskell, and overthrowing the old man. Then he sets up Colm Fahey as "Johannes Reitveld", an alias using his and Jordie's old name, to swindle money from the Merchant Council and Jan Van Eck. He meets with the Grisha Triumvirate and strikes a deal with Sturmhond the privateer, on behalf of the Ravkan crown. At the auction, it looks like everything is going south - the Ravkans can't afford the price that is being offered for Kuwei, and the Council of Tides show up to declare the auction a sham. It also seems that Kaz has been betrayed by Wylan Van Eck, who was captured by his own father just before the auction. However Kaz has been two or three steps ahead the whole time and he slowly reveals his plot to discredit Jan Van Eck and steal the thirty million kruge that Van Eck owes. Towards the end of the book, he reveals that he siphoned thirty million kruge of the council's money into the Dregs accounts, to be divided among his team. He also uses some of his share to buy Inej a ship and finally, he reveals her parents disembarking from a ship that he asked Sturmhond to send looking for them.
Powers and Abilities
Kaz has no Grisha power or magical abilities, but he is skilled at lock-picking, card tricks, and sleight of hand. These abilities are so complex that Matthias often calls him demjin or demon. He is privy to information of just about anyone and anything in the city, due to Inej's stealth-like abilities and his considerable influence over Ketterdam.
His sleight of hand skills has been shown many times through the series, one case being when he took a gun from Per Haskell, took the bullets out without his knowing, and gave it back in a matter of seconds.
Kaz is also known most prominently as the mastermind and leader of the Six of Crows crew. He devises the plan and directs the crew. His plans are often extremely complex, having many layers that even those participating do not know the entirety of the plan. Inej, Jesper, Nina, Wylan, and Mattias all follow his orders without question.
Kaz has outstanding intellect for his age and extraordinary memory, therefore being able to manage businesses such as the Crow Club and Fifth Harbour.
In hand to hand combat, he favors using a cane with a crow-skull-shaped handle that he typically carries everywhere with him. The cane has been shown to be a lethal weapon and is Fabrikator-made to enhance the weight of its swing. Kaz is also comfortable around knives and guns. When unarmed he is also dangerous: holding his own with his fists or using improvised objects as weapons.
Kaz is a living legend in his right leg, which he acquired after falling from a roof (thus breaking his leg), during a job. It never healed quite properly, thus the severity of his limp varies on a day-to-day basis. He could have had his leg healed in Crooked Kingdom but decides to leave it as is. When asked by Inej what Kaz's tell is in a fight, he claims that his opponents never look past his limp, giving Kaz the element of surprise on his side.
Kaz also suffers from Haphephobia, the fear of being touched or touching others. This developed from his traumatic experiences as a child, when he was thought to be dead and dumped with hundreds of dead plague victims. Kaz was forced to swim to shore, using his deceased brother as a float to keep him from drowning. He suffers from PTSD involving vivid flashbacks whenever he makes skin-to-skin contact with anyone else. This severe phobia also comes up when he’s in small spaces with other people: in Six of Crows, when Kaz had to go inside of a prison wagon to infiltrate the Ice Court, he fainted from being forced to be in close proximity with so many other people. Kaz wears gloves all the time to try and overcome this condition and shows to be slowly winning out at the end of Crooked Kingdom where he’s able to hold Inej’s hand and kisses her neck.
Kaz caught the Queen's Lady Plague along with his brother, Jordie. Jordie died, but Kaz survived, albeit with Haphephobia, PTSD, and a rasp in his voice.
- "I will have you without armor, Kaz Brekker. Or I will not have you at all."
- — Inej Ghafa
Inej and Kaz are extremely close and have fought side by side in the Dregs for over two years.
Kaz originally rescued her from the severe treatment of Tante Heleen at the Menagerie after convincing her to become indentured with The Dregs instead. Inej is Kaz's second-in-command and the person he trusts the most in the world, enough to take his gloves off in front of her. Inej's lockpicking and fighting skills were also taught to her by Kaz. He also was the one who gave her her first knife.
Kaz acknowledges his growing feelings for Inej, but tries to suppress them, viewing them as a weakness or a liability for both himself and Inej. Still, he makes a particular effort to prevent harm coming to her, and to do right by her, even if he believes she deserves better.
They have several scenes where they seem to be getting closer and closer, as well as acknowledging their feelings for one another, but both of their pasts make it extremely difficult for them.
In the final chapter with the two of them, he doesn't wear his gloves out in public (a massive step for him) as well as holds her hand, two things he has never done before. He also reveals to her that he bought her a ship to hunt slavers and also negotiated with King Nikolai to find her parents and bring them to Ketterdam. Beside herself with joy, Inej invites Kaz to come to meet them with her. He then asks her to check if his tie is straight before going to see them. The scene leaves an open ending that implies a potential romantic future between the two of them.
- "Kaz could have told Jesper that he knew he wasn’t dirty, reminded him that he’d trusted him enough to make him his only real second in a fight that could have gone badly wrong tonight. Instead, he said, 'Go on, Jesper. There’s a line of credit waiting for you at the Crow Club. Play till morning or your luck runs out, whichever comes first.'"
- — Six of Crows
Aside from Inej, Jesper is the second closest person to Kaz out of the six members of the crew. Kaz selected Jesper as his only second (his only backup) when he confronted the rival gang leader, Geels. This was a particularly meaningful choice because Kaz knew that Big Bolliger was a traitor and he would need to heavily rely on his only second (Jesper) to survive the confrontation.
Kaz shares with Jesper more details about his schemes than he does with most members of the Dregs (although not as much as he tells Inej and never the full details of his plans). However, Kaz was later disappointed by Jesper's indiscretion, which accidentally led to Pekka Rollins setting up an ambush. This led to Kaz becoming more cautious and less trusting around Jesper.
Jesper also has a strong attraction for Kaz initially. He kicks himself for not observing Kaz carefully when he has the chance to see Kaz without all his clothes in the prison. He longs for Kaz to trust him more and he is slightly jealous of how Inej is in Kaz's close confidence. However, these feelings are lessened after Jesper meets Wylan.
Jesper also tries to regain Kaz's trust by sacrificing his favorite guns during one of their heists. Jesper is quite upset by the loss of his guns but Kaz later steals them back from the safe for him. Although Kaz claimed to have only have retrieved Jesper's guns because of the job, it's clear that Kaz cares for Jesper. At the end of Crooked Kingdom, Kaz tells Inej that Jesper is missed around the Slat, implying that Kaz misses Jesper.
- Leigh Bardugo has stated that Kaz's bad leg is based on her own osteonecrosis.
- Brekker is similar to 'breker' which means breaker in Dutch (the language Kerch is based on).
- Leigh has stated on her social media that Kaz thinks that “trans women are women" and by extension, supports LGBTQ+.
- Brekker is also from a piece of machinery.
- Kaz got the idea for his last name off of a piece of machinery he saw in Ketterdam.
- "Kaz" means "a flaw", "an imperfection", or "a defect" in both Slovak and Czech.
- "Kaz" also means "a goose" in Turkish.
- "Kaz" sounds similar "Kaas" which means "Cheese" in Dutch (the language Kerch is based on). While this has no relevance to the story, it is a popular topic of memes in the fandom.
- Kaz has PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) because of his traumatic experiences after Jordie died, which is shown through his constant flashbacks made when undergoing contact with human flesh. This was also confirmed in a Q&A shown in the back of some copies of Crooked Kingdom.
Six of Crows
- “I trade in information, the things men do when they think no one is looking. Shame holds more value than coin ever can.”
- “A secret’s not like coin. It doesn’t keep its value in the spending.”
- "When everyone knows you're a monster, you needn't waste time doing every monstrous thing."
- "A ghost with a syringe?"
- "Brick by brick, I will destroy you."
- "The easiest way to steal a man's wallet is to tell him you're going to steal his watch. You take his attention and direct it where you want it to go."
- "If it were a trick, I'd promise you safety. I'd offer you happiness. I don't know if that exists in the Barrel, but you'll find none of it with me."
- "I've broken into banks, warehouses, mansions, museums, vaults, a rare book library, and once the bedchamber of a visiting Kaelish diplomat whose wife had a passion for emeralds. But I've never had a cannon shot at me."
- "Greed bows to me. It is my servant and my lever."
- "We'll be kings and queens, Inej."
- "And that's what destroyed you in the end: the longing for something you could never have."
- "I protect my investments"
- "Some people see a magic trick and say, 'Impossible!' They clap their hands, turn over their money, and forget about it ten minutes later. Other people ask how it worked. They go home, get into bed, toss and turn, wondering how it was done. It takes them a good night's sleep to forget all about it. And then there are the ones who stay awake, running through the trick again and again, looking for that skip in perception, the crack in the illusion that will explain how their eyes got duped; they're the kind who won't rest until they've mastered that little bit of mystery for themselves. I'm that kind."
- “There was no part of him that was not broken, that had not healed wrong. And there was no part of him that was not stronger for having been broken.”
- "I'll tell you a secret... the really bad monsters never look like monsters" - Pg. 30 Ch. 2
- “Sometimes, the only way to get justice is to take it for yourself.”
- "You are a stolen painting, Kuwei. Too recognizable to sell on the open market, too valuable to leave lying around. You are worthless to me."
- "... if you want me to start exploring more definite options, a bullet is a lot cheaper than putting you on a ship to the Southern Colonies."
- "I'm pragmatic. If I were cruel, I'd give him a eulogy instead of a conversation. So, Kuwei, you'll go to the Southern colonies, and when the heat has died down, you can find your way to Ravka or Matthias' grandmothers' house for all I care."
- "I would have come for you. And if I couldn't walk, I'd crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we'd fight our way out together -knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that's what we do. We never stop fighting." - Pg. 184 Ch. 12
- “My mother is Ketterdam. She birthed me in the harbor. And my father is profit. I honor him daily.” - Pg. 200 Ch. 14
- “You’re not weak because you can’t read. You’re weak because you’re afraid of people seeing your weakness. You’re letting shame decide who you are … It’s shame that lines my pockets, shame that keeps the Barrel teeming with fools ready to put on a mask just so they can have what they want with none the wiser about it. We can endure all kinds of pain. It’s shame that eats men whole.” - Pg. 283 Ch. 18
- "I don't hold a grudge. I cradle it. I coddle it. I feed it fine cuts of meat and send it to the best schools. I nurture my grudges" - Pg. 300 Ch. 21
- "I've taken knives, bullets, and too many punches to count, all for a little piece of this town. This is the city I bled for. And if Ketterdam has taught me anything, it's that you can always bleed a little more" - Pg. 354 Ch. 26
- "Rich men want to believe they deserve every penny they've got, so they forget what they owe to chance. Smart men are always looking for loopholes. They want an opportunity to game the system" - Pg. 398 Ch. 39
- “They don't know who we are. Not really. They don't know what we've done, what we've managed together. So let's go show them they picked the wrong damn fight.” - Pg. 420 Ch. 30
- "Suffering is like anything else. Live with it long enough, you learn to like the taste." - Pg. 478 Ch. 37
- “You can only sharpen a blade so far. In the end, it comes down to the quality of the metal.” - Pg. 504 Ch. 41
- "Ketterdam is made of monsters. I just happen to have the longest teeth." - Pg. 521 Ch.43
- "Crows remember human faces. They remember the people who feed them, who are kind to them. And the people who wrong them too. They don't forget. They tell each other who to look after and who to watch out for." - Pg. 528 Ch. 44
- She smiled then, her eyes red, her cheeks scattered with some kind of dust. It was a smile he thought he might die to earn again.￼
- ”Is my tie straight?”
- "That's the laugh."
Rule of Wolves
- "I don't walk through a door unless I know there's a window to climb out of."
- Six of Crows: page 16
- “What do you think my forgiveness looks like, Jordie?“ Crooked Kingdom, Chapter 23
|Main Characters||Kaz Brekker • Inej Ghafa • Jesper Fahey • Nina Zenik • Matthias Helvar • Wylan Van Eck • Kuwei Yul-Bo • Jan Van Eck • Pekka Rollins|
|Minor Characters||Joost • Per Haskell • Jarl Brum • Tante Heleen • Bo Yul-Bayur • Jordie Rietveld • Councilman Hoede • Geels • Specht • Emil Retvenko • Anya • Cornelis Smeet • Zoya Nazyalensky • Sturmhond • Dunyasha Lazareva • Onkle Felix • Raske • Genya Safin|
|Locations||Ketterdam • Hellgate • Ice Court • Djerholm • Kerch • Ravka • Novyi Zem • Shu Han • Fjerda • Wandering Isle|
|Groups||The Dregs • Grisha • Drüskelle • The Menagerie • Black Tips • Merchant Council • House of the White Rose|
|Events||Hringkälla • Hellshow • Queen's Lady Plague • Komedie Brute|
|Miscellaneous||Jurda • Jurda Parem • Kefta • Indenture • Djel • Ghezen|